The opening match of the FIFA World Cup 2022 will see hosts Qatar play against Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor on November 21. Qatar, who will be making their World Cup debut at home, will also face African champions Senegal and three-time runner-up The Netherlands in other Group A matches.
The Final draw was held at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre yesterday after a short but dazzling live performances, which showcased a mix of Qatar’s culture and modern development.
As the coaches and representatives of the 29 qualified teams took their seats and waited anxiously to find out their opponents for Middle East’s first World Cup, their nerves would have eased, albeit temporarily, as Qatar put on a glittering ceremony.
There was references to the Arab culture and surprising acts that included the unveiling of the official mascot La’eeb and the launch of the Official Soundtrack, with the first live performance of the single Hayya Hayya (Better Together), a reggae and R&B influenced track by Qatari artist Aisha and American singers Trinidad Cardona and Davido.
The stage – which resembled the swing and lightness of the dhow boat – was set on fire with an audiovisual performance of the traditional musical art of fijiri, followed by a motivational speech from one of the Arab world’s most well-known actresses Sherihan from Egypt.
With just over 230 days to go for the football’s showpiece event, yesterday’s Final draw has set the path for the 29 teams that have qualified so far, along with the eight teams that remain in contention, three of whom will seal the last spots up for grabs in June.
Asian Champions Qatar, who will be backed by a vociferous home crowd, could not have asked for a relatively easier start to their campaign as they take on South Americans Ecuador. Felix Sanchez’s men then will have to brace for tougher opponents as they face Senegal and the Netherlands – a shock victory in any one of the two matches holding key to their knockout hopes.
If Qatar do make it to the last 16 as Group A winners or runner-up, they could run into any of England, US and Iran, who are all in Group B. One of Wales, Scotland or Ukraine will take up the last spot in the Group B after the European play-offs in June.
The 2010 champions Spain will face 2014 winners Germany in a tough Group E with Japan and the winner of the Costa Rica versus New Zealand playoff in June. Four-time champions Germany were in Pot Two, making them the obvious team to avoid for the top seeds in the draw. They were knocked out of the 2018 tournament in Russia in the group stage.
Defending champions France will face Denmark, Tunisia and the winner of the intercontinental playoff between Peru and Australia in Group D.
Record five-time winners Brazil will play Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in Group G, while two-time champions Argentina drew Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Robert Lewandowski’s Poland in Group C.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, who needed a play-off win against North Macedonia last week to qualify for Qatar 2022, are placed in Group H with Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea in Group H.
Croatia, runners-up in 2018, were drawn with Belgium and Morocco in Group F, which was completed by a Canada side returning to the World Cup for the first time in 26 years.
For the first time, to optimise specific match details for the benefit and comfort of supporters and teams, the match schedule will be confirmed in due course by FIFA after games have been assigned to a stadium and kick-off time for each match.
Before the draw was held, FIFA president FIFA president Gianni Infantino promised the event would “simply be the best tournament ever”.
“What an emotion it is to be here. Now we know that it is for real and that’s why I wish you all welcome for the draw of Qatar 2022. This World Cup will simply be the best World Cup ever. The World will be united in Qatar. My first thanks goes to the people of Qatar, to the people of the Gulf and the people of Arab. This will be the World of unity and the World Cup of Peace,” Infantino said.
Yesterday’s draw was attended by 2,000 guests, and featured former World Cup winners Cafu of Brazil and Germany’s Lothar Matthaeus among the draw assistants. They were joined by Adel Ahmed MalAllah (Qatar), Ali Daei (Iran), Bora Milutinovic (Serbia/Mexico), Jay-Jay Okocha (Nigeria), Rabah Madjer (Algeria) and Tim Cahill (Australia).
They were supported by a conducting team comprised of Women’s World Cup two-time champion Carli Lloyd, football pundit and former England player Jermaine Jenas and British-Jamaican sports presenter Samantha Johnson. The draw ceremony was presented by award-winning British actor Idris Elba and broadcaster Reshmin Chowdhury.
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 groups
Group A: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands
Group B: England, Iran, USA, Wales or Scotland or Ukraine
Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
Group D: France, Peru or UAE or Australia, Denmark, Tunisia
Group E: Spain, Costa Rica or New Zealand, Germany, Japan
Group F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
Group H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea
* World Cup to be played from Nov 21 to Dec18
* Intercontinental playoffs to be contested on June 13-14 in Qatar:
i) Winner of United Arab Emirates v Australia face Peru
ii) New Zealand v Costa Rica
-- European playoffs to be held in June on dates to be announced